© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Iranian Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a televised speech in Tehran, Iran, January 8, 2021. Official Khamenei Web site/Handout through REUTERS//File Photograph
By Parisa Hafezi
DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranians elect a brand new president on Friday in a race dominated by hardline candidates near Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with fashionable anger over financial hardship and curbs on freedoms set to maintain many pro-reform Iranians at dwelling.
The front-runner in a fastidiously vetted subject is Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline choose seen by analysts and insiders as representing the safety institution at its most fearsome.
However the authorities’ hopes for a excessive turnout and a lift to their legitimacy could also be upset, as official polls counsel solely about 40% of over 59 million eligible Iranians will vote.
Critics of the federal government attribute that prospect to anger over an financial system devastated by U.S. sanctions and a scarcity of voter alternative, after a hardline election physique barred heavyweight average and conservative candidates from standing.
The race to succeed President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist, will probably be between 5 hardliners who embrace Khamenei’s strongly anti-Western world view, together with Raisi and former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, and two low-key moderates.
The restricted alternative of candidates displays the political demise of Iran’s pragmatist politicians, weakened by Washington’s resolution to give up a 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions in a transfer that stifled rapprochement with the West.
“They’ve aligned solar, moon and the heavens to make one specific individual the president,” stated average candidate Mohsen Mehralizadeh in a televised election debate.
Whereas the institution’s core supporters will vote, tons of of dissidents, each at dwelling and overseas, have referred to as for a boycott, together with opposition chief Mirhossein Mousavi, beneath home arrest since 2011.
“I’ll stand with those that are uninterested in humiliating and engineered elections and who is not going to give in to behind-the-scenes, stealthy and secretive selections,” Mousavi stated in an announcement, in response to the opposition Kalameh web site.
Mousavi and fellow reformist Mehdi Karoubi ran for election in 2009. They turned figureheads for pro-reform Iranians who staged mass protests after the vote was received by a hardliner, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a contest they believed was rigged.
If judiciary chief Raisi wins Friday’s vote, it may enhance the mid-ranking Shi’ite cleric’s possibilities of finally succeeding Khamenei, who himself served two phrases as president earlier than changing into supreme chief.
Rights teams have criticised Raisi, who misplaced to Rouhani within the 2017 election, for his position as a choose within the executions of 1000’s of political prisoners in 1988. Raisi was appointed as head of the judiciary in 2019 by Khamenei.
Nonetheless, Iranians don’t rule out the surprising.
Within the 2005 presidential vote, Ahmadinejad, a blacksmith’s son and former Revolutionary Guard, was not outstanding when he defeated highly effective former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, largely seen beforehand because the frontrunner.
“(Saeed) Jalili’s possibilities to shock us shouldn’t be underestimated,” stated Tehran-based analyst Saeed Leylaz.
Though publicly Khamenei has favoured no candidate, analysts stated he would like a agency loyalist like Raisi or Jalili as president.
The election is unlikely to deliver main change to Iran’s international and nuclear insurance policies, already set by Khamenei. However a hardline president may strengthen Khamenei’s hand at dwelling.
Iran’s devastated financial system can also be an necessary issue.
To win over voters preoccupied by bread-and-butter points, candidates have promised to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, sort out inflation and hand money to lower-income Iranians. Nonetheless, they’ve but to say how these guarantees can be funded.
All candidates again talks between Iran and world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal and take away sanctions.
However average candidate Abdolnaser Hemmati stated hardliners sought rigidity with the West, whereas conglomerates they management rake in giant sums by circumventing sanctions.
“What is going to occur if the hardliners come to energy? Extra sanctions with extra world unanimity,” Hemmati, who served as central financial institution chief till Could, stated in a televised debate.
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(This story has been refiled to repair typo in para 17)